Association > Definition

This post isn’t really about politics, but I need to use a couple of illustrations from the political world in order to flesh out today’s topic, so please bear with.

Back in the dawn of antiquity known as 2009, shortly after Barack Obama assumed his duties as President the annual CPAC convention took place in Washington DC. CPAC is a massive gathering of conservative folk from all realms. Its primary functions are listening to lots of speeches, networking, schmoozing, partying, and … um, that’s about it.

What made the 2009 convention quite noticeable for conservatives regardless of whether they attending was Rush Limbaugh’s keynote address. In it, he lambasted, lampooned, and pretty much let it all hang out in laying into Obama’s proposed policies and platforms. One of Limbaugh’s phrases immediately became a hot take haven for hot debate when he said in regard to Obama, “I hope he fails.”

This instantaneously divided conservative punditry, at the time primarily bloggers, into two camps. One, typing one-handed as the other firmly clutched pearls so tightly the oysters yelled ouch, decried Limbaugh’s dearth of decorum for while there were political, philosophical, and policy differences between them and the newly inaugurated President, wishing for him to fail was tantamount to wishing for the country to fail. The latter chuckled at this hyperbole, pointing out how the former both overestimated any given President’s ability to affect the country’s direction and completely missed Limbaugh’s point, that being his hope Obama’s policies would be disastrous to the level of opening eyes how his way was not the best way for the United States. It was a classic case of word interpretation versus strict definition.

Skipping ahead to today, much has been of leftist and media (pardon the redundancy) darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez labeling federal holding centers for those attempting illegal entry into the United States concentration camps, when challenged on using such terminology doubling down by insisting the definition was correct. While in the present climate accusing whoever in politics one dislikes of being literally Hitler is sadly commonplace, repeatedly using a term forever identified with the Holocaust can only be interpreted as intentional, childish, utterly insensitive provocation.

What Ocasio-Cortez is determinedly missing via repeated assertions that the definition of concentration camp accurately describes these facilities she abhors is word association trumps (no pun intended) word definition. Examples: think of two three-letter words, one defined as happy – rhymes with day – and one defined as a slang term for a cigarette, it rhyming with bag. Would you use either attached to those definitions today? No. Why? Common sense. A more benign example is how in recent times ‘going viral’ has morphed from meaning implementation of a multi-stage ad campaign starting with no direct mention of the promoted services or goods, the hope being there would be sufficient “what’s it about” buzz generated to create and sustain interest until the campaign concluded with a reveal, to something or someone gaining popularity via social media without benefit of mainstream media exposure. One would think Ocasio-Cortez, being very much a cultural child of today, would be aware of such things. However, we live in a world where political debate has long since de-evolved into schoolyard taunts and “they started it” cries, so using a label identified with Auschwitz and Dachau to identify nothing of the sort for no discernible reason save naked hated of the current President should surprise no one even as it should, but will not, sadden everyone.

One can only pray for no more.